Yoga is an ancient art that has been refined and modified by many great teachers across the ages. It now comes in so many styles and techniques and different people may find different versions of Yoga more suitable for them.
This is because Yoga is a very personal exercise routine with strong emphasis on looking within oneself in order to achieve personal balance and well being. Read on to find out how you can get the most from yoga for your personal needs.
Regardless of which individual version of Yoga you practice there are a number of things that apply to Yoga universally rather than to individual branches of the discipline. If you want to get the most from your Yoga session you will learn to understand these things and develop them into your Yoga routine.
Learning To Stand:
You will find that much of your time performing Yoga is spent in a sitting or lying position, however the beginning of a Yoga session is usually a standard standing pose.
The standing pose is the most natural position for a human to find themselves in, yet we spend remarkably little time practicing standing correctly.
If you begin your Yoga session with a standing pose you are free from the stress of having to take on an unaccustomed position and this allows you to focus on other fundamentals of the Yoga Discipline.
Concentrate On Breathing:
For instance you can concentrate on regulating your breathing and feeling the full healing benefits of each breath. The standing pose is so natural to us that we don’t need to pay it any conscious thought and can focus on our breath entering the body and flowing through us.
The standing pose is also beneficial to bringing the body into alignment and centering ourselves both physically and spiritually.
Leonardo Da Vinci produced a famous diagram showing the perfect symmetry of the human body when it is in its natural standing pose and this position has always been the most natural for us to find our center and balance.
Feel The Stretch:
The bulk of a Yoga session is spent in placing our body in positions or poses that stretch and activate the body. These poses are entered into gently and gradually so there is no risk of injury.
Many poses have a number of different levels so we can get more and more benefits from them as our body becomes more used to them.
This is perhaps best demonstrated by a simple forward stretch. When a gym teacher tells a pupil to touch their toes the pupil is performing the same exercise whether they can reach forward and touch the floor or whether the stretch only goes as far as their knees. The only difference is the level of incline.
Natural Movement Of Yoga
The forward stretch is also a perfect example of how the natural movements of Yoga are used outside of a Yoga class or session – in this case in stretching and warming up before sports or other physical activities.
Most children whose coaches take them through a stretching routine before a game of football have no idea that many of the poses are borrowed directly from a Yoga session.
The Key To Yoga
The key to enjoying and benefiting from this main phase of the Yoga session is to pace it to your level. As with the child who can only forward stretch to knee level you do not need to perform the exercise at the highest level from the first time you experience it.
Find your comfort zone and then move a fraction beyond it. Then each new session try and maintain that level and push a little further if possible.
What Are You Looking For?
Some people may use Yoga as a relaxing form of stress relief. The great thing about Yoga is that all these people are going to find what they are looking for and so much more. Yoga has a long list of benefits, both physical and mental, associated with it.
Yoga can assist in recovery from a heart attack through its blood lowering and distressing effects. Yoga has also been reported to be very beneficial to people with diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis due to its ability to assist with balance and muscle tone.
Yoga For The Back:
Yoga gently works muscle groups around the back and spine of spinal injury sufferers and because it puts very little stress on the muscles while still working them thoroughly it is a fantastic way of strengthening this part of the body.
Regular Yoga for back pain sufferers can result in complete restoration of their range of movement. As we age most of us become frailer and less coordinated in our movements, but Yoga can help us age more gracefully by ensuring we are always in control of our body and mind. In fact most Yoga sessions are filled with a slightly older crowd who recognize the ongoing benefits it gives them.
Yoga Builds Strength:
Yoga is also a strength building discipline that allows even progression in the arms, the legs and the trunk or core of the body.
Many of us take strength for granted until it fails us, but increasing your physical strength will benefit you not just with lifting heavy objects. Also in everyday tasks like getting groceries or mowing the lawn. It even makes it easier for us to move ourselves!
As well as strength Yoga will greatly increase the range of motion we are able to achieve, particularly in the spine and joint areas. Once again this is often something we take for granted unless it is missing.
The Simple Things Seem So Hard:
The act of reaching up to put something in a cupboard is natural to many of us, but for others it can cause a jolt of pain down their back. They simply cannot move their arm through the range of motion needed to reach up, or when they do their grasp is not strong enough to grab anything from the cupboard.
It’s important not to just focus on the physical benefits of Yoga because the mental benefits are at least as impressive. Simply put Yoga will focus and sharpen your mind. Each posture is performed with a focus and an awareness of your body and your breathing.
Focus Of Body And Mind:
This is not a gym session with mind-numbing reps or chatter between exercises. Whatever you are doing during a Yoga session is done with absolute focus on the movement, the body, the breathing and the moment.
Breathing is something that most of us do wrong most of the time. We are accustomed to taking shorter, quicker breaths, but with Yoga the breathing is deeper and fuller. These deeper breaths will make the mind calmer and more focused.
Sense Of Well Being:
Yoga enthusiasts often describe this calmness as a sense of well-being. The deep breathing also makes it easier to release the stress and negative thinking that accumulates in us.
Just as the physical blocks are removed through increased blood circulation during the exercises, so the mental blockages are removed by clarity of thought.
Constant Learning Process:
Yoga is not a discipline you simply know or do not know; it is an ongoing learning process. There are a huge number of different postures and each posture has a number of different variations on how it can be performed.
This never-ending sea of options keeps the body stimulated and engages the mind constantly. Behind the postures and exercises themselves there is a complex philosophical system based in the writings that Yoga derives from.
The Ethics Of Yoga:
Not many people think of a complete code of ethics including steadfastness, truth, self inquiry and an opposition to stealing, harming others and hoarding when they think of yoga
These ethical issues are a central part of the system on which Yoga was founded. The different postures, breathing exercises and the deep philosophy of Yoga all lead to the same end.
A deep contemplation. Because Yoga relaxes both the body and the mind tension and stress are greatly reduced. This is highlighted during a Yoga class by pauses for us to get in touch with how we are feeling and reacting. Ending the class in a point by point contemplative meditation performed on the back is common.
The Final Analysis:
Yoga is an exercise, but it is also a meditative process, a code of ethics and a confidence and character building course all rolled into one. It’s no wonder the group of people who attend the classes are so diverse. The end of a Yoga session is also an important stage.
This stage usually consists of a group of restoration and restorative poses and positions that are designed to allow the energy to flow back through your body.
A good Yoga session releases pent-up energy in your body and allowing this energy to flow freely to all parts of the body is a critical part of gaining the maximum benefits from Yoga.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this post or this site in general. I will answer all the comments on my website personally so drop me a line below if you have any Yoga questions or comments.
I’m happy to help any way that I can.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietitian before starting any fitness program or making any changes to your diet